By Edward Dennett
FOLLOWING upon the consecration of the priests, we have directions for the continual burnt-offering — continual because it was to be offered morning by morning, and evening by evening, throughout the generations of the children of Israel. It was, in fact, a perpetual daily sacrifice.
"Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar; two lambs of the first year, day by day continually. The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning, and the other lamb thou shalt offer at even: and with the one lamb a tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink-offering. And the other lamb thou shalt offer at even, and shalt do thereto according to the meat-offering of the morning, and according to the drink-offering thereof, for a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the Lord. This shall be a continual burnt-offering throughout your generations, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, before the Lord; where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee. And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory. And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to Me in the priest's office. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the Lord their God." (vv. 38-46.)
There are, it will be observed, three things in this scripture; viz., the burnt-offering and its accompaniments; the meeting-place between God and His people; and Jehovah dwelling among them, and being their God.
The burnt-offering was composed of two lambs of the first year, one to be offered in the morning, and the other in the evening. It was never to cease being offered. (See Num. 28: 3, 6, 10, etc.; Ezra 3: 5.) Its meaning, as explained in the last chapter — i.e. as an emblem of the sacrifice of Christ in this character — is His devotedness unto death, wherein He, in the place of sin and for God's glory, proved His obedience to the uttermost, even to being made sin for His people. All therefore was consumed upon the altar, and went up as a sweet savour unto the Lord (see Lev. 1); and this sweet savour set forth the acceptability of His death to God, yea, the infinite delight which God found in the death of Christ in obedience to His will. Inasmuch, therefore, as the offering before us was perpetual, God laid a foundation thereby on which Israel could stand and be accepted in all its fragrance and savour. It thus becomes no mean type of the position of the believer, revealing the ground of his acceptance in the Beloved; for just as the sweet savour of the continual burnt-offering ever ascended to God on behalf of Israel, so Christ in all His acceptability is ever before His eyes on behalf of His own. We can therefore say, "As He is, so are we in this world;" for we are in the divine presence in all the savour of His sacrifice, and in all the acceptance of His person.
The accompaniments of the burnt-offering were two; first, "a tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of an bin of beaten oil;" and, secondly, "the fourth part of an hin of wine." The first was a meat, and the second a drink-offering. The meat-offering, as was pointed out in connection with the consecration of the priests, is an emblem of the devotedness of Christ in life, His entire consecration to the will and glory of God. The fine flour was mingled with oil (see also Lev. 2), to shadow forth the mysterious truth that Christ as to His humanity was begotten of the Holy Ghost. It represented consequently the perfection of His life below — His life of perfect obedience, every energy of His soul flowing out in this channel, finding it His meat to do His Father's will, and to finish His work. Israel was consequently before God in all the value and acceptance of His life and death — of all that He was to God, whether considered in the perfect consecration of His life, or in the highest expression of the perfection of His obedience as displayed when He was made sin on the cross. The drink-offering was composed of wine. Wine is a symbol of joy — "it cheereth God and man;" and since it is here offered to God, it speaks of His joy, His joy in the sacrifice presented. But it was offered by His people, by the priest on their behalf. It expressed on this account also their communion with the joy of God in the perfectness of the life, and the devotedness unto death, of His only begotten Son. Such is the heart of God. He would bring us into fellowship with Himself, have us feast on His own delights, that the joy of His own heart, flowing out, and filling also ours, might overflow in praise and adoration. Hence John says, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1: 3.)
The next point is the meeting-place of God with His people. Moses was permitted in grace to meet Jehovah at the mercy-seat (Ex. 25: 22; Num. 12: 8); but the people could not pass beyond the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. It was here that the burnt-offering was presented on the brazen altar; and hence this was the meeting-place, on the ground of the sacrifice, between God and Israel. There could be no other possible place; just as now Christ forms the only meeting-place between God and the sinner. It is most important to see this truth — especially for those that are unsaved — that apart from Christ there can be no drawing nigh to God. "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14: 6.) Mark well, moreover, that God cannot be approached except on the ground of the sacrifice of Christ. This is the truth foreshadowed in connection with the burnt-offering. If the cross, Christ crucified, be ignored, no relationships can be had with God, excepting those that may exist between a guilty sinner and a holy Judge. But the moment the sinner is led to take his stand upon "the sweet savour" of the sacrifice to God, upon the efficacy of what Christ accomplished by His death, God can meet with him in grace and love.
There is a further thing — the consequence of coming to meet and dwell with His people. God will sanctify the tabernacle by His glory; He will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar; and He will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons to minister unto Him in the priest's office. (vv. 43, 44.) In virtue of the sacrifice He claimed everything, and set all apart to Himself. The tabernacle, the altar, and the priests are alike sanctified — claimed as belonging to and for the service of, Jehovah. The expression "by My glory," as applied to the tabernacle, is remarkable. There only in all the earth, in the holy of holies, was His glory manifested — in the bright cloud, the Shekinah, which was the symbol of His presence. Being thus displayed, it separated the tabernacle off from every other thing on the face of the earth, made it a holy place, sanctified it. But more. His glory being there became the standard of everything presented. The question — looked at in its higher aspects, in the light of the truth now possessed — for all who approached, and for everything that was offered, was accordingly that of suitability to God's glory. Hence we read in the epistle to the Romans that "all have sinned and come short of His glory," showing that unless we answer to its claims, could even stand before the immediate display of His glory, we are guilty sinners. It goes still further. The Tabernacle itself was on earth, and in the midst of God's earthly people. As sanctified by His glory, therefore, it became also prophetic — prophetic of the day when the whole earth will be filled with His glory. It was thus a bright promise of millennial blessing.
This leads on to the third thing — God dwelling in the midst of His people. This was the declared object of the erection of a sanctuary (25: 8). and the end of His dwelling with them was that they might be brought into relationship with, and know Him as the God of redemption, as the One who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. The ground indeed of His dwelling in their midst was accomplished redemption. Thus, as has been already said, He never dwelt with Adam, Noah, Abraham, or the patriarchs, however intimate the intercourse with Him which they were permitted to enjoy. Nor did He, nor could He, dwell with Israel while in the land of Egypt; but after He had brought them out of the house of their bondage, and across the Red Sea, He then desired to have His sanctuary in their midst. The sweet savour of the sacrifice — emblem of the acceptability of the sacrifice of Christ to God — made it possible for Him thus to surround Himself with those whom He had redeemed. But there is more than even dwelling with them: there is also relationship. "I will be their God." It is not, be it remarked, what they shall be to Him, though they were His people by His grace, but what He will be to them. "Their God" — words fraught with unspeakable blessings; for when God undertakes to become the God of His people, deigns to enter into relationship with them, He assures them that everything they need, whether for guidance, sustenance, defence, succour — yea, everything, is secured for them by what He is to them as their God. It was in view of the blessing of such a wondrous relationship that the Psalmist exclaimed, "Happy is that people, whose God is the Lord." (Psalm 144: 15.) As, however, we have seen, if He dwelt among them it was that they might know Him — and know Him through redemption. This was the desire of His heart, and in pursuance of it He had visited them in Egypt, smitten Pharaoh and his land and people with judgments, brought them out with a high hand and an outstretched arm, brought them unto Himself, and now directed that His tabernacle should be erected. He would have His joy in the happiness and joy of His redeemed — in surrounding Himself with a happy, rejoicing people. Such was His thought, however little they entered into it; but a thought which, if postponed, will one day find its full and perfect embodiment. The Tabernacle in the wilderness, indeed, surrounded by the tribes of Israel, is a figure of the eternal state. The purpose which God expresses here was repeated (Lev. 26: 12) and reaffirmed as to the millennium. (Ezek. 37: 27, 28.) But these were but shadows of the full blessing that God designed for His people, and could not be more because of what they were; and hence it is not until the eternal state is reached that it is realized in perfection. Even now God dwells upon the earth, for the church is His habitation through the Spirit; and every believer, who has received the Spirit of adoption, is a temple of the Holy Ghost. But when all God's purposes in Christ are accomplished, the redeemed of this dispensation will, as the new Jerusalem, form the eternal tabernacle and dwelling-place of God. (Rev. 21)
"But who that glorious blaze
Of living light shall tell!
Where all His brightness God displays
And the Lamb's glories dwell.
God and the Lamb shall there
The light and temple be,
And radiant hosts for ever share,
The unveiled mystery."